Why is scoring free kicks so difficult?

There are multiple reasons why scoring free kicks is so hard to score. Here are some of the reasons now.

Why is it so hard to score free kicks?

The Distance

Depending on where the foul occurred, it is a fair bit of distance for a player to shoot from. Occasionally free-kicks can take place from over 30 yards out, lowering the probability of a shot finding the net. In contrast, taking a penalty is from 12 yards out and is obviously easier to score as the keeper has to guess.

When you are shooting from distance, curling a shot might not be enough. You may have to put your laces through it. When you try that technique, the accuracy can go out of the window. Therefore, it is fair to say that part of the reason it is very difficult is because of the distance you shoot from. In addition, the angle can play a huge role in the success of a free-kick. If the set piece is central then it may be easier to score. It would be certainly easier to score keeper’s side as you have more options with where to shoot.

The Wall

The wall is there for a reason, as an obstruction to prevent the taker from scoring a goal. Firstly, it obstructs the player’s view of the goal which will make it harder for the player to score. In addition, it is there to block the player’s shot when they go for a goal. There are now players who lie down at the bottom of the wall preventing a taker from striking the ball under it. Therefore, the approach is to get the ball over the wall and get it under the framework of the goal which is difficult. To do that you would need great technique and be able to anticipate to know where the ball would go.


Nerves can get the best of us sometimes and when you have a free kick there is more pressure than you might think. When you are the designated free-kick taker, the world stops to see you take the shot just like a penalty. Depending on the game scenario if you have a free kick and you are trailing, then the pressure is enormous. It probably feels easier for players to score from open play than it is from a free kick. Realistically you may have one chance in the entire game to score a goal of that nature so you have to make it count.

For instance, in the 2014 World Cup final after Mario Götze had scored in extra-time, Messi had a chance to level the score in the dying embers of the game from a set piece. It should be noted that it was pretty far out and from a difficult angle but Messi’s shot flew over the bar. Now the reasons he missed are partly due to the distance and the technique, but the pressure must have been enormous which just highlights how difficult it is to score a free kick.


Most people don’t realize the amount of technique it requires to score a free-kick. Firstly, the ball is stationary which means that you are totally responsible for how the ball moves. In a way, you create the physics for the ball. As a result, if you do not have the technique you will struggle to score. You have to tick the boxes in so many variables for instance you have to think in your head about the right amount of curl your put on the ball, have you wrapped your foot around the ball too much or too less?

Moreover, have you aimed for the right spot? Is it a good idea to go for keeper’s side? Have I positioned myself at an angle optimized for a free kick? Did I put too much power on it or too little? These are things that players think about before and after taking a free kick. In penalties, you don’t have that exact type of thinking because it is only from 12 yards out.

Because of all the factors I have just mentioned, the best free-kick takers in the world have a success rate of around 9%. Lionel Messi is among that list but James Ward-Prowse currently has the best percentage in Europe with around 11% of his attempts finding the back of the net.

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